Chocolate Tahini Bars

The flavors of dark chocolate and tahini, a sesame paste with origins in the Middle East, work surprisingly well together. I originally set out to make chocolate tahini truffles, but ended up creating this bar cookie instead. Served cold, with an almond-date crust, creamy tahini filling, and dark chocolate glaze sprinkled with sea salt, it’s…

Almond Date Thumbprint Cookies

The inspiration for these delicious, marzipan-like cookies comes from a dessert I first made in high school. As part of an assignment for Latin class, I had to prepare a dish from an ancient Roman cookbook and bring it to a class potluck. I chose to make roasted dates stuffed with almonds and drizzled with honey. …

Salsa Verde Pizza

The other day, my husband and I were taking a walk, discussing what to make for an upcoming pizza night (a weekly tradition in our home,) when we passed by a Mexican restaurant with outdoor seating. Catching a glimpse of the delicious food being served, I thought: why not make pizza with Mexican flavors? I wanted something simple and…

Bolani: Afghan Turnovers

These pan-fried turnovers, called bolani in Persian and perakai in Pashto, are filled with fresh herbs and potato, pumpkin, or spinach. Though traditionally prepared for special occasions, they are a staple at many Afghan restaurants in America. The first time I made bolani dough, I followed a recipe I found on an Afghan food blog.  I had help from a friend whose parents…

Maamoul: Middle Eastern Holiday Cookies

In the Levant region of the Middle East, both Easter and Eid are celebrated with date-and-walnut-filled shortbread cookies called maamoul.  I first learned about these delicious treats from a Palestinian coworker, who pointed out that maamoul are very similar to Russian tea cakes, one of my favorite cookies to bake. The tea cakes, which also happen to be…

Avocado Lime and Coconut Cookies

When my mom first moved to New York from Sao Paulo, she was surprised to discover that Americans use avocados in savory dishes. In Brazil, avocados are eaten for dessert, blended with sugar and lime juice until creamy and pudding-like. Inspired by this dessert, which I ate several times growing up, I developed a cookie recipe infused with Brazilian…

Masala Challah

Challah, a traditional Jewish bread made of egg-enriched dough and shaped into braids, is prepared much the same way in Jewish communities around the globe. But that hasn’t stopped modern cooks from putting a personal spin on it. Take Leah Koenig’s delicious pumpkin apple butter challah, or Deb Perelman’s fig and sea salt variation. Five years ago, on a whim, I added…

Chocolate Rose Water Cookies

Rose water, the liquid left over from steeping rose petals to make perfume, is a common ingredient in Persian desserts. So are almonds. In a nod to two holidays this month with roots in Iran – Nowruz, the Persian New Year, which is celebrated on the first day of spring, and Purim, the Jewish festival commemorating the tale of…

Tibetan Tsampa Snacks

  Last year, I spent five months tutoring children at a community center for Himalayan immigrants in Queens.  I taught academic enrichment classes, and learned all about Tibetan cuisine from my students and coworkers. Located high up on a plateau in the Himalayan region, Tibet has a harsh climate. Wintertime temperatures often drop below zero, so traditional foods tend to be hearty, like momo (meat-filled…

Parathas

Parathas are a South Asian flatbread, typically served with eggs (anda in Hindi/Urdu) for breakfast. Flaky and somewhat thick, paratha dough is layered with oil or ghee and folded multiple times, much like puff pastry. Sometimes, the dough is stuffed stuffed with potatoes (aloo) or cheese (paneer.) I first attempted to make parathas in college, using a recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s World-of-the-East…

Homemade Bagels

Even if homemade bagels weren’t so delicious, they’d be worth making for the experience alone. They’re an especially fun project for kids. I taught a group of elementary school students how to make bagels once, and they delighted in shaping dough by spinning it around their thumbs, cooking the bagels in simmering water, and sprinkling the…

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

This is another excellent recipe from the blog Sweet Little Joys. These shortbread cookies are flavored with cinnamon and a hint of cayenne pepper, just like the beverage they’re named after. A Google search on the history of Mexican hot chocolate led me to a fascinating Chicago Tribune article, dating back to 1942, that describes how…